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Written By Siobhan O'Connor
When you spend your life caring for others and savings lives, it is imperative that you have time in the day to recharge, rest and replenish.
Many healthcare professionals often work a mixture of day and night shifts, so the need for self-care and regular breaks has never been more crucial. With so many critical decisions to be made, it is vital that all our healthcare professionals receive enough breaks and emotional support.
Back in 2017, Guy’s and St Thomas launched The HALT Campaign with many hospitals nationwide also following suit.
Dr Mike Farquhar, Consultant in Sleep Medicine at Evelina London, which is part of Guy’s and St Thomas’, said:
“Breaks for staff are not a luxury, especially when doing busy or intense night work. Regular rest is essential to ensure staff can provide safe, effective patient care to the best of their ability. The HALT campaign emphasises that, unless critically ill patients require your immediate attention, our patients are always better served by clinicians who have had appropriate periods of rest during their shifts.”
Ensuring that breaks are taken regularly improves individual and team performance. Which therefore improves morale and mental health. Error traps such as confirmation bias can also be lessened as an individual’s mental model can be shifted.
It appears to be a vicious cycle; shortage of staff due to illness means heavy workload, heavy workload means struggling to take breaks, which leads back round to staff taking time off and shortage of staff.
The RCN website states:
Long hours, fatigue and lack of rest breaks or time to recuperate between shifts are associated with an increased risk of errors. Healthcare professionals therefore need to be vigilant about the impact of fatigue on their professional practice.
Taking well needed breaks for healthcare professions needs to be supported by employers as well as the employee. It is a responsibility that should be shared and reinforced. Recently, it has become more of a recognised issue across the industry, which is why more and more campaigns are in place, encouraging healthcare staff to take time for themselves whilst on shift.
Since the HALT campaign was launched, other campaigns encouraging healthcare staff’s well-being have followed suit. BMJ recently launched their own well-being campaign, regulating the hashtag #giveusabreak.
According to the BMJ, the ‘give us a break’ campaign is aimed at giving doctors working in secondary care access to a staff room, making sure they’re properly equipped and maintained on-call rooms. It also encourages healthcare workers to get together for coffee and lunch breaks in order to unwind.
The campaign is all part of the bigger picture, much like HALT, in working to promote healthcare workers own well-being and making sure they are looking after themselves as well as others.
Working on the front line is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding. The unsung hero’s that care for us and our loved ones, not only deserve but need to be looked after correctly for them to be able to care for us correctly. Being able to take regular breaks should not be a privilege and ensures that both the care giver and receiver are getting the best from the situation.
Have you noticed efforts to encourage taking more breaks and self-care in your workplace? Or perhaps you feel your surgery could implement more ways of encouraging staff well-being. Get in touch.